Donna Regina - The Decline of Female Happiness (2010)

Ever wondered what people mean when they talk about the "sound of Cologne"? Well, alongside the usual protagonists — Mouse On Mars, Wolfgang Voigt and his Kompakt stable — you could make a pretty strong case for Donna Regina, whose feather-light form of plaintive alt pop has been shimmering gently for some two decades now. Like so much of their home city's most memorable music, husband and wife Regina and Günther Janssen's style is defiantly simple and warmly unobtrusive, forged from drifting, naive melodies, twinkling acoustic strums and Regina's whispering, dream-like vocals. Indeed, they're widely credited as the first to coin the term "dream pop," in their 1994 single of the same name. It's a smoothed out, pastel-hued world they've happily inhabited ever since, and their 11th album is no exception.

The looping, swung-out jangles of the eponymous opening cut wrap themselves comfily round a barely-there rhythm section, which despite its pessimistic title, suggests through its upwardly arcing melody that there's a silver lining to the otherwise languid, reflective mood. A similar air of detachment pervades much of the album's inner fibre, creating a kind of inverted mirror effect whereby melodically jollier moments ("For Good Again," "Lost Sadness") somehow seem to harbor lingering sadness, while seemingly morose cuts ("Still Looking For a Home," "Tied To A Ship") emerge as strangely warm and carefree. It's easy to call upon the usual canonic touchstones to describe Donna Regina — Saint Etienne, Cocteau Twins, even the Beach Boys — but in "The Decline of Female Happiness", they've confirmed that beneath the easy-access sheen, there's a curious and deeply endearing power at work that's entirely their own. Like a hazy memory of an endless summer evening, Donna Regina exist in a rose-tinted imagination of a gentler, simpler time that may have never even existed. And long may they remain there.

Donna Regina
The Decline of Female Happiness
Album art: 
Release date: 

1. The Decline Of Female Happiness
2. Vague
3. Until You Do
4. Perfect Stranger
5. Tied To Your Ship
6. Lost Sunday
7. Last Love
8. Diamond Of The Day
9. Still Looking For A Home
10. For Good Again
11. Vague (Version)

Music label: 
Karaoke Kalk
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